A Look Inside: Interview with Christopher Denny

SWP_3911

photo by Andrew Hansen

I had the chance to sit down on a pile of pallets with Christopher Denny out back the Tractor Tavern before he took the stage a few nights back. A truly open and honest dude with his heart on his sleeve. He’s definitely endured more than his fair share of struggles along the way, but seems to take on each day one at a time with a dedication and passion for playing music.

His Unique Style
It’s hard not to recognize the unique voice that Christopher has. It’s very distinctive and there’s just something about it that holds an old soul to it. “Finding yourself is hard because its not who you thought you were gonna be. Being different isn’t something you go around talking about. I felt good when people told me I was different, but I didn’t know or think that it’d make me feel better about myself, but it did. I think any type of attention has always been good. You turn on the radio and hear so many of the same things, and from an early age I’ve always enjoyed anything that makes you turn you head or turn it up because it’s different, otherwise it just gets old real quick.”

I asked Christopher where his style stems from and where he drew inspiration from. “I grew up (in Little Rock, Arkansas) listening to 80’s radio with my mom, my dad was a southern rock guy, but my grandma was who I was always around and really got me into music and then my grandpa too. Old country, gospel, my grandma would get me into these quartets, we use to go see Jimmie Davis when he was like 80 years old. The first time I heard Nashville Skyline (Bob Dylan) it was really like whoa, and then the first time I heard Jeff Buckley I was like ‘I don’t like this’ and then I couldn’t stop listening to it and it became a real changing moment.”

Tour
“We moved away from Austin, and we really wanted to move up to Pennsylvania. Before we left, we went on this little tour, and it was my first tour back in years, and I’m considering this tour (now) my ‘first’ tour back because that one was just so bad, it was humbling. It’s been a deep dark valley, it’s been tough, really tough, I’m having to remember why I want to do this, but then I got on this tour. After rolling down the road in a tin can which can be beautiful and miserable, you get to the show, your nervous as fuck, you start playing and realize it’s a good deal. You get fulfilled, the crowds boost you up, and the crowds have been really good on this tour, they’ve been really supportive of me as an opener. I’m just getting back to where I’m use to being back on stage again, I wish I had some great story for you, I use to have a bunch of them, but they were drug driven.” I asked Christopher if Tour was kind of his rehab, he said it wasn’t so much his rehab as his new addiction to get him through.

The Record
“So much of this has been so many years, where I’m at right now with it is what I’ll talk about, but the path to it, it’s sort of treacherous and painful. But I will say that I’m loving the record (If the Roses Don’t Kill Us), and the more I hear about it, and I’ve read some things that people have written about it, the happier I am with the way we made it. I honestly don’t know how I feel completely, the path was a lot of pain, my father died, my mom’s been in rehab and jail like 5 or 6 times, I went through heroin and methadone, and feeling like the record label were my mortal enemies, and then realizing that they cared. I had to deal with the fact that I’m kind of insane in that I can think someone is out to get me when they’re not. I’ve gotten on some meds for my depression, and realizing that since I’ve been on those, I haven’t just left people, or not paid my rent, and ended up on the street, and that this whole time I really needed that stuff. Also realizing that I’m a little bit broken, wearing sleeves sometimes because I’m embarrassed, and then letting it all hang out, I’ve got scars and a whole lot more on the inside than the outside.”

Christopher talked a bit about the high-caliber talent that was brought in on the record. “My friend PJ Herrington was the manager, and he said ‘I’m gonna put some people together’ and I said ‘I’m just gonna trust ya’ and he got Dave Sanger to produce it (Asleep at the Wheel). Then they just started pulling folks in, and it just happens, you bring real players and you’re good to go. I had a moment when I was playing with Glen Fukunaga (bass – Dixie Chicks & Robert Plant) and he was just so in the pocket, I actually thought he was off, but actually he was just so on. There was also this moment where I was playing these little leads on ‘Radio’ and he just looked over and was looking at me like that’s fucking tasty, and I was just thinking this is awesome. It was cool, this guy’s looking over at me, I’m doing my thing, this guy’s played with some of the best players in the world, and he’s looking over at me and it’s not my voice that he cares about, I’m playing guitar and he’s appreciating it. I didn’t feel like I had to have so much control (on the record) and in doing so I got so much more than I could have asked for.”

The Northwest
Aside from a little bit of time in Twin Falls, ID this was pretty much Christopher’s first time through the Northwest. I asked him a bit about what he thought. “I tell you what, beautiful coming in, those mountains out there, that is gorgeous. Then when you get up here, it’s scary for me to be kind of locked in, sort of like when I’m in Brooklyn, I feel kind of trapped, but you know I’ve realized how small I am, and I can get through all this shit.”




Song of the Day: “Shut In” by Strand of Oaks

photo by Dusdin Condren

photo by Dusdin Condren

Definitely a transformed sound from his earlier stuff, but I’m like really really digging it. I’m with John Richard’s and the cast of KEXP on this one…I just can’t stop playing this song!…


A Look Inside: Interview with PHOX

First thing I love about PHOX is how unique and vast the sound is that comes in through so many different angles, what are some of the guiding principles the band gets behind to deliver this?
I think one of our guiding principles is to have as few guiding principles as possible, haha. We all come from very different musical backgrounds, and we encourage each other to use our weapons and styles as efficiently as we can. We try to keep in mind that what we are doing is serving and enhancing the song, and hopefully not taking away.

You guys are blasting into one of the best musical season’s of the year with self-titled debut album in hand just days after the official start of summer, what’s in store? and what are you most looking forward to?…besides Seattle of course
Seattle! Duh! But really, we are going to be touring pretty consistently for the rest of the year. We are embarking on our first headline tour which should be great! I’m a sucker for the west coast, so that’s what’s calling my name this summer.

Speaking of the recent release of the self-titled debut album, tell us more about how the mold of that record got started, what went into it leading up to recording, the magic once hitting the studio, and what came out?
The new album was an interesting process. We had some song ideas coming together in the fall, and then come winter we were hitting it pretty hard, including a few pre-production sessions with our producer, Brian Joseph. Despite all this “preparation” it actually ended up being a fairly rushed process anyway. That being said there was definitely a magical aura at April Base (the studio), and we all feared having to leave by the end of our stay. We are so grateful that the Eau Claire crew invited us into their world. What came out is a slightly more refined PHOX, but still the same spirit and essence at the core.

I see you’ve already sold out months down the road in the hometown of Madison, WI…how powerful is that hometown love? and how has it shaped the band to this day?
To say that Madison has shaped us is perhaps an understatement. Madison is the reason this band ever happened. It was where we found a home together. Our very first shows were because we had friends in Madison who wanted to help, and there are friends and fans who have come to every show since day 1, when we had no songs, no practice, and no idea what we were doing. It’s incredible how much Madison has believed in us, even before we believed in ourselves, and that kind of trust and love is very special.


Album Droppin’ Tuesday: Stay Gold from First Aid Kit

First Aid Kit_Stay Gold

Love these gals and how they do what they do. Melancholic melodies transcend so gracefully from these Swedish sisters with such beautiful interwoven harmonies. Embodying a renaissance country aura and the ability to deliver song after song of such high caliber, enjoy the great tunes of First Aid Kit’s Stay Gold.



Featured Artist: Fanfarlo

Fanfarlo

Another one where I should have trusted KEXP a little bit more, lots of love especially from John “In the Morning” Richards, but then again, that’s just often part of the journey. One of those bands that you hear, don’t pause enough on, move along, come back to and the switch goes off. I often find that particular path relinquishes bands/albums that I really fall for with a solidarity that will keep me listening for the long haul.




A Look Inside: Interview with Kristoffer Lo of Highasakite

photo by Tonje Tilesen

photo by Tonje Tilesen

I know the band’s coming off a recent SXSW endeavor with lots of great reviews following. Was this the bands first SXSW trek? What was the experience like for y’all?
We actually had our first meeting with SXSW last year. A strange experience the first year. Total mayhem and chaos, but this year it was much better. We planned the whole trip better and got more rest and enjoyed it a lot more. It’s an amazing place to be for a band, even though it’s pretty crazy. Unpacking your gear in some ally, bringing it up on stage 15 minutes prior to show, play for 30 minutes, and then get everything off stage and pack it all up in the streets. Amazing!

I’m in love with your integration of steel drums, tell me more about how that came to be and they dynamic it brings to the overall sound?
Ingrid bought the steel drum at Iceland Airwaves in 2012 in Reykjavik. The steel drum has got a lot of sound and touches frequencies where other instruments don’t, but it can also take up a lot from. But Ingrid has managed to incorporate the instrument into the songs and the band in a beautiful way.

How would you compare and contrast playing here in the States with Europe, and your home country of Norway?
Well first off the US audience is much more direct. If they like it, they’ll immediately come up to you and tell you. Also, compared to Norway, the audience here is bit more eager to check out new music. And also they buy a lot of music here, which is great.

What’s the strangest thing that’s happened to the band on tour?
Strangest thing. Well there isn’t that many strange things happening. But we’ve actually had a couple of followers who came to our shows in Austin, then in Houston and again in Dallas. That’s pretty strange for us, but in a good way.

What feelings are brewing reflecting upon the completion of the band’s debut album Silent Treatment while anticipating its early April release?
We’re really excited and can’t wait for the album to be out over here. The album has received some pretty good reviews in Norway, and people here seems to like the way we play, so hopefully people will enjoy the album as well!


Album Droppin’ Tuesday: Lost In The Dream from The War On Drugs

The War on Drugs - Lost In The Dream

The War On Drugs preceding album Slave Ambient was an extremely rich piece of work that left a strong imprint on me. It’s one of those albums that I find myself going back to often. With that said, the bar for the forthcoming album Lost In The Dream was extremely high. And the verdict…not disappointed to the least! I’d like to call the first single “Red Eyes” a standout, but its hard to amongst all the other greatly crafted songs on the record. Sorry Reagan, I don’t see this war ending anytime soon.


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